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Lamb Shanks. You had me at hello…
I’m sure that anyone reading through my recipes on this blog can see that I have a VERY soft spot for lamb. This recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel & Giant Couscous is one of our house favourites. This is the sort of meal that I day-dream about through the day at work, knowing it’s for dinner that night.
I’m not kidding – it’s THAT good. AND dinner all in one pot, how great is that? This is also a great recipe to either make ahead or freeze part way through for another day. If you have a pot big enough you could also scale the recipe up – been there, done ALL of that.
The “sauce” or couscous stew has a lovely smoky flavour thanks to some bacon and toasted fennel seeds, which really compliments the lamb and fennel. A gorgeous combination.
I have adapted this recipe from a recipe by chef Gary Mehigan, that appeared in Taste magazine a few years ago. Love Gary and his recipes, and I think he might love lamb as much as I do.
As we say in our house…shanks very much. (I know – corny right? What can I say…)
Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel & Giant Couscous
Fall of the bone tender lamb, with a smoky fennel & giant couscous stew. Dinner in one pot, and can be made ahead. (see note)
- 4 lamb shanks fat well trimmed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g short cut bacon roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots roughly chopped
- 1 large baby fennel bulb roughly chopped
- 1 brown onion roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 large garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds dry toasted & ground (see notes)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1 cup giant/pearl/israeli couscous
Pre heat oven to 150c / 300 f (fan forced)
In a large flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven, fry lamb shanks over medium-high heat, for about 12 - 15 mins or until browned on all sides, and remove to a plate (you may need to do this in batches - see notes).
Using kitchen towel/paper, carefully wipe out any excess oil from the pan.
Add bacon, carrot, fennel and onion to the pan, cook stirring over medium-high heat for 5 - 8 mins or until veg starts to soften.
Add garlic and tomato paste, and cook stirring for 1 min.
Add wine and allow to simmer for 2 -3 mins, or until wine starts to reduce.
Add thyme, ground fennel seeds and bay leaf to pot.
Add back shanks and any resting juices, nestling the shanks into the veg as best you can (see note), top with stock and bring to a simmer.
Bake, covered for 3 hours.
At this stage lamb should be tender. Turn up oven temperature to 180 c / 350 f, add couscous to liquid making sure it is all submerged and bake uncovered for 35 mins or until couscous is cooked through.
Dry toasted fennel seeds - sounds like too much trouble right? Please don't leave them out, they add soooo much flavour to the finished dish. Also super simple to make, just dry fry them in a small fry pan for about 2 - 3 mins stirring often. They will start to smell quite fragrant, pop a little and go a bit darker in colour. Then I just put them in a mortar and pestle a grind them up. You could use a spice grinder/mill if you have one.
***UPDATE 21 Sept 2017*** Apologies for the mistake, but the amount of fennel seeds should be 2 TABLESPOONS not 2 teaspoons. Sorry!
While I am browning the lamb shanks, this is the time I use to chop the bacon & veg.
When returning the shanks to the pan (and before you add the stock - or it's a bit tricky) I try to get them as far to the bottom of the pot as I can. This means pushing aside the veg mixture, then piling it on top of the shanks once they are in. This is to try and get as much of the lamb submerged in the stock as I can.
A note about making this dish ahead of time. You could make this to the end of step 8 and then refrigerate to start at step 9 and bake the next day - done that. OR you could make the dish to the end of step 9, and then freeze. To cook on the day, after defrosting I put the lamb & veg sauce into a casserole dish and bake covered for about 1/2 to 3/4 hr (depending on the size of the shanks) at 170c / 320f (fan forced) to come up to temperature. Then I start back at step 10. Done that too - we eat this A LOT.
This is also a great recipe for scaling up. Just keep in mind that you will need a pot that's big enough to fit your amount of shanks - and fit into your oven!
*Please note that the amount of calories per serve is provided as a guide only, as ingredients and cooking methods can vary greatly*